I recently read “Top 5 Regrets of the Dying,” a list written by Australian Bronnie Ware, who worked for many years with terminally ill patients in hospice.
While Ware’s list was thought provoking, there was an element missing that bothered me, and it took a day or two for me to figure out what it was. I finally had that eureka moment, and here it is:
We hear a lot about the regrets of the dying, but not enough about the regrets of the still-living AARP generation.
I was 49 years old when I moved to a retirement community for a job. (The position was live-in). The average age of the people I saw each day was 72, according to demographic statistics of the area. Now, five years later, I’m settled in another retirement community about 10 miles away, where the average age is late 60s. I’m also married to a man 26 years older than me.
I’ve noticed that the happiest people in their 60s, 70s and beyond have certain things in common, while many others who have fairly good health and enough money to get by are enduring rather than enjoying this stage of life.
What makes the difference? I’ve come up with a list of the top 5 regrets that the second group is battling.
1. I wish I’d developed, and nurtured, a passion when I was younger.
Whether it was listening to music, dabbling in oil paints, collecting stamps, fishing, or playing bridge, golf or ping pong, the happiest seniors are those who have found an activity they practice nearly every day that brings them joy. So look for something that you loved as a child or young adult, and revive the flame.
2. I wish I’d kept up more with technology.
Those who seem most content in retirement aren’t afraid of technology. They may not own a Kindle, download music or do their own taxes with Turbo Tax, but they can use and program their phones, send email messages and take pictures digitally - all skills that enhance quality of life without chaining you to a desktop.
3. I wish I had kept working another five years.
This is a surprisingly common regret for people who retired early (say, before age 60), once the novelty of retirement wore off. Those who felt this way were happiest once they picked up a part time paying or volunteer job.
4. I wish I had spent more time talking with my spouse about how our roles would change in retirement.
Those who seemed the most satisfied with their lives after their careers ended were committed to working out a new routine with their spouses that included time together as well as time apart where each could pursue their own interests without crowding each other.
5. I wish I could simplify my life.
Folks who had downsized considerably seemed to be pretty comfortable with their newfound freedom, and didn’t express regret over the accumulated stuff they’d let go. Conversely, those with the most “stuff“ often felt weighed down by the time, energy and cost of maintaining their possessions.
Claire Bush Rabe is a freelance writer based in Phoenix and have authored two books as well as created content for The Arizona Republic, www.azcentral.com, and many other print and online publications.